And also April’s past – or close to. I’ve now had so many blogging Aprils! Here is what I mean…
Compare this series from 2009
16 December: Blogging the Noughties: 1 – 2000. 17 December: Blogging the Noughties: 2 — 2001 18 December: Blogging the Noughties: 3 — 2002; Blogging the Noughties: 4 — 2002 –2004: memorable visuals. 19 December: Blogging the Noughties: 5 — 2003; Blogging the Noughties: 6 — 2004.
20 December: Blogging the Noughties: 7 — 2004; Blogging the Noughties: 8 — 2005; Blogging the Noughties: 9 — 2006. 21 December: Blogging the Noughties: 10 — 2007; Blogging the Noughties: 11 — 2008; Blogging the Noughties 12.
I’ve just finished Hell Week (as the Quitnetters call it), having made a determination that this cigarette quit will hold. I did run from July 1998 to just on New Year 1999 almost ciggieless, and for a couple of extended periods in 1999 and 2000. I suppose I have in total smoked over the last year half of what I would have. However, I now know I cannot be a moderate smoker, so it has to stop. My advice to anyone out there: if you don’t, don’t start! It’s an evil drug really. I, poor fool, started in my 30s, as an alternative, I think, to strangling children: teachers may know what I mean.
So yes, I am thinking of M. Right now he would be thinking of whether the Karakoram Highway will open when it should in two days time so he can proceed back to Shanghai via Xinjiang…
Such a shame I didn’t carry on with that quit back then! Still, so far so good. And M is off again in a couple of days, this time to the USA.
The media attention given to Sydney Boys High from April 2002, to its current cultural mix, and to selective schools generally, conflated a number of separate but interdependent issues. Much heat was generated in the process and I found myself quoted in several news stories, principally in The Sydney Morning Herald. These are extracts from material published at that time on my school (now English/ESL) pages, then on Tripod, where it was continually revised until 2004. There can be no guarantee that links to other sites still work, though most of them do.
GUIDE: After the introduction you will find –
- Principal’s response 12 April 2002.
- Some personal reflections. On coaching, cultural sensitivity, and such matters.
- Sydney Morning Herald article by Gerard Noonan 6 April 2002.
- Letters in the SBHS OBU’s newsletter which triggered the story.
- John Goddard’s letters.
- Letter from a parent of Chinese background.
- Letter from K C Lee, an ex-student.
- Letters to the press.
- Email from a parent.
- Further press coverage — second Gerard Noonan article.
- Jennifer Hewett article with comments: SMH Anzac Day 2002.
- Email from Chinese ex-student and some final thoughts on racism.
… Is this really nine years ago now? The links there don’t open in new windows…
Captain Cook Hotel
There are times when Surry Hills is just delightful, and this afternoon has been such a time. I met Lord Malcolm at the Captain Cook, having not been there for quite a while, and yes the food leaves The Shakespeare for dead. My $7 steak (280g) came with mushroom sauce (featuring real mushrooms), mash, and generous vegetables perfectly steamed. Great.
Artist Andy and a friend joined us. Since the Captain Cook is also a gallery and encourages patrons to draw on the tablecloths, a fine artistic time was had during lunch. Lord Malcolm’s Graham Kennedy face looked remarkably like Tony Blair.
Walking home afterwards — I didn’t go on to The Oxford — I came upon a beautiful little part of Surry Hills I had never seen before behind the back streets near Arthur Street. It led me to Cafe Niki, which of course I know as the coffee shop nearest the Mine.
Speaking of the Mine: adding Google Site Search has made such a difference to the utility of my site! Check it out.
The break in continuity has to do with something called Diary-X – no longer with us.
My past catches up
Got this email.
I was a former student of yours at Sydney Boys High. Perhaps you still remember my name. I certainly remember most of the stories you told us in English class, e.g. the fellow you met as a child named ‘Rear Admiral Sir Leighton Bracegirdle’. I also remember your recital of Caedmon’s hymn with proper old English pronunciation.
To cut a long story short, I am now working as a Computer Systems Engineer in the city and I am still in the office. I decided to do what I do whenever I am bored – an unclaimed money search.
Do you by any chance have ‘Thomas’ as a middle name? If so, the NSW Office of State Revenue has $76.80 of your money. Even if it’s not you, it should mean something that I thought of you when thinking of people to look up.
Indeed it does; but my middle name is not Thomas. Thanks, V.L. This sort of thing happens from time to time.
Photographing Lord Malcolm
Lord M wanted some pictures of him with Sirdan and myself, so Sirdan brought his camera and after lunch we went to the hospice. Lord M is pretty much the bionic man these days and can’t get out of bed much, but two nurses helped us wheel his bed to a spot with a nice background view and we took two sets of pics, one lot on Sirdan’s camera and the other lot for Lord M to look at on his mobile phone, along with some he took a couple of weeks back at the Chinese Garden.
I was afraid the photos might look a bit, um… Lord M has been more photogenic than he is right now. But they are actually rather nice. I’m glad we did it.
More nostalgia. In my boyish imagination…
… I had a bit of a thing for men in tights, or shirtless, as indeed did many in the 1950s. Whether there was an extra significance in my case I leave entirely up to you. I have met some who never seem to have recovered…
Yes, The Phantom. That’s a whole blog on the subject.
And Robin of Batman and fame I truly identified with, so much so that I once convinced one little boy that Iwas Robin! I must have been about 10 at the time.
I don’t now what he and Batman are up to here; perhaps the source tells us. There are some very remarkable images there.
Tarzan was big in Vermont Street Sutherland; a good excuse to strip off, make alarming noises, swing from trees, and engage in wrestling.
See more here.
Finally, of course, there was Superboy, an attractive fantasy figure for the somewhat nerdish. This comes fromSilver Age Comics, a blog “Mostly Dedicated to Comics Published from 1955-1970″ — which means I must have been on the tail end of a Golden Age, though I didn’t know it at the time. My comic reading subsided from 1955 on, aside from religiously following some, including The Phantom, for a very long time. How long I refuse to say.
Nothing homoerotic about any of this, was there?
It will happen, no doubt about it, by 2050 if not by 2020. I honestly cannot imagine the current constitutional arrangements carrying on for all that much longer, but by 2050 I will of course be long dead. I guess though that at that time Australian Monarchists will seem rather like the Jacobites in McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series, and like those Jacobites they will probably still be having meetings. (The irony for the Jacobites is that they resent the displacement of the true monarchs of Scotland by the German Princeling George I, and instead look to another German Princeling, that of Bavaria, as the True Monarch. It’s true that the nearest descendant of James II is a Prince of Bavaria, but that line long since relinquished any claim themselves.)
Meanwhile, reading as I am the wonderful and sometimes cantankerous Norman Davies, this time Europe East & West, I should like to point out, as he does, that the last Queen of England was Anne. Since 1707 there have been no English monarchs as such; Elizabeth II (or perhaps to be quite accurate Elizabeth I) is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not, technically, of England. All of which no longer has any direct relevance to Australia, but she ALSO happens to be Queen of Australia, and in that role is her connection with us. (See for the current position The Australia Act 1986.) Then there is of course the somewhat vaguer, but still I believe useful, Commonwealth, of which she is the head duly recognised by quite a few republics.
So at the moment, as the coinage tells me quite clearly, Elizabeth II (or I) is the Australian Head of State; but then the Constitution is usually understood to say that the Governor-General is our Head of State, and in practice this is the case. His powers are generally subject to Parliament, but less so than those of the Queen in The United Kingdom. One of the fascinations of reading Frank Welsh’s Great Southern Land earlier this year was the skill with which he traces the powers of Governor/Governor-General from Governor Phillip, who was virtually an absolute monarch in his domain, to the present day, showing what varied from state to state and period to period, and what was retained or modified in 1900-1901 and why. I commend Welsh’s book to you for that alone, though it has other merits too.
I wouldn’t expect Kevin Rudd to be in any hurry, or so I would conclude from what he said post-2020 Summit on the 7.30 Report a couple of days back.
KERRY OBRIEN: I notice one of the participants and author David Maher got one idea just listening at the summit opening to the national anthem, get rid of it was his idea, find a better one. Do you like Advance Australia Fair, do you think it does this nation justice as an anthem?
KEVIN RUDD: Look, the question of the Australian national anthem was settled quite a long time ago.
KERRY OBRIEN: You just don’t want to go there?
KEVIN RUDD: It’s fine.
KERRY OBRIEN: Does it stir you? When you have to stand as you do all the time listening to Advance Australia Fair and the words of Advance Australia Fair, does it stir you?
KEVIN RUDD: It does, and the reason it does is when you’ve got verses like “For those who come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share” that that should be the resolve of any Australian Government, unlike the one we replaced which seemed to pull up the shutters when it came to our proper international obligations, particularly to refugees who found themselves in real strife. For reasons such as that I think the anthem says what we aspire to as a nation. I think Australians sing it and sing it with passion. When it comes to constructing the Australia of the 21st century I think there are bigger challenges ahead of us like fashioning the Australian republic in this area that you’re now talking about, than rewriting with a team of musicologists a new national anthem.
KERRY OBRIEN: The republic is hardly a new big idea. It’s already Labor policy, but purely pragmatic comply [SIC] do you really think the majority of Australians and the majority of people in Australian states are likely or will embrace a republic before the Queen’s reign comes to an end?
KEVIN RUDD: Hard to say is the answer to that one, Kerry. Remember, the republic referendum bit the dust less than a decade ago partly because the Republican side itself of the argument was split down the middle, direct elects as opposed to the Parliament appointing an Australian head of State. That’s why you’ve got to get it absolutely right. What I found impressive about the sentiment of the Australia 2020 summit was people’s desire overwhelmingly, I thought, for us to move to a republic and to become a republic. There was a sense of inevitability about that.
The Queen, who shows few signs of slowing down, will attain the Diamond Jubilee of her Coronation in 2013. However, someone born in 1926 can’t really be expected to go on for all that much longer.
I was, and remain, in favour of an appointment by a joint sitting of Parliament of some suitable eminent person, by the way, rather than direct election. That strikes me as the best way to retain the distance from party politics I think a Head of State will need if we are to preserve something that reflects the best of what we already have, and that best is considerable indeed.
It was all thoroughly debated ten years ago. You may review that here.
Back to Norman Davies. In 2001 he spoke in Sydney.
…I took up British history as a sideline, partly because, like many others, I was dismayed by the general decline of historical knowledge and education in Britain, and partly because of the ever-growing confusion about history and national identity. Very few people here, I suggest, would confuse ‘Australia’ with ‘New South Wales’. Yet many, many English people – and I mean the English – are complacent of the differences between ‘England’ and the ‘United Kingdom’ or between ‘the UK’ and ‘Great Britain’. They have never ever been taught the basic facts about the three Acts of Union – 1536, 1707 and 1800 – and hence about the make-up of the British state in which they live. Far too many British citizens, let alone foreigners, treat ‘Britain’ and ‘England’ as interchangeable terms.
Sorry to say, the same sort of confusion can be met in Australia. The Centennial Publication, Why are we celebrating?, talks of Queen Victoria as ‘Queen of England’ – which she certainly was not. And, as I noticed myself last week, a telephone discount centre on Orchid Avenue in Surfers’ Paradise is offering cheap calls at 29c per minute to the UK and at 50c per minute to Scotland. I can assure you that no canny Scot would ever fall for that one!…
Australia and Britain
The world is changing fast. Britain has willingly surrendered a significant part of its sovereignty to the European Union. Australia is an independent nation that plays its full part in the life of the Asian and Pacific regions to which it belongs. One is fully entitled to ask in the circumstances whether the close links between Britain and Australia will survive.
My answer to that question would be in the affirmative, though not necessarily for the reasons which conservative advocates of the British link might prefer. For a start, most present-day Britons and most present-day Australians share the lot of being orphans of the late great Empire which will never return. For the foreseeable future, they are going to share a common language, and in large measure, a common kinship. Whatever new political or economic framework may emerge, this basic human legacy will remain. One shouldn’t forget that the USA chose to leave the British communitybefore the First Fleet sailed. And yet, 220 years on the ties of the English-speaking world, which are not exclusively linguistic, continue to exert their influence.
And then, I would argue that a multicultural Australia will feel greater empathy for a multicultural Britain than if either of them had escaped the multicultural experience. What is more, the Eurodiversity of the Australian population – the presence of all those ex-Italians, ex-Greeks, ex-Germans, ex-Poles and others – can only help to lubricate relations with a Britain that is firmly installed in the European Union. If, as expected, the European Union enlarges in a few years time to encompass twenty or even twenty-five members, the influence in Australia of people descended from dozens of those same nationalities can only work for closer understanding.
Finally, I would argue strongly for the power of History. (He would, wouldn’t he?) In the late and unlamented Soviet Union it used to be said that, while the future was fixed, the past was always changing. In reality, though the future is always uncertain, the past can never be changed. Nothing will be able to alter the fact that Australia was born and matured in the British orbit. Nothing can budge the historical reality that in 1901, when the Commonwealth of Australia began its journey, it was part of that same great British family to which England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales also belonged. Hence, when the British monarchy has been pensioned off – as it surely will be*: when the UK itself has fallen apart – as it probably will do: when the very word ‘British’ has been consigned to the past – as it possibly may be: the memory will remain. The point will likely be made at Australia’s bi-centennial celebrations of 2101, and, who knows, at the tri-centennial celebrations of 2,201. In a world of growing globalisation, Australia will develop closer contacts with places all over the world. But only one place – not Rio, not Shanghai, not San Francisco – will remain the place from which the First Fleet sailed. And only one country can be remembered as the country by which that first constitution was granted.
Two sites of related interest
* when the British monarchy has been pensioned off – as it surely will be… In the long run, no doubt, just as Emperors of Rome are thin on the ground nowadays, unless you subscribe to the idea that the Popes are successors of a kind. In the short term, say 2050, I suspect the UK monarchy will probably survive.
From Sirdan’s at Rosebery 1
This was posted on Facebook and shows a scene very like, if bigger than, one Sirdan and I witnessed a few Anzac Days back. It was taken at the Stonewall Hotel on Oxford Street yesterday. Thanks to Sailor Andy.
Sirdan and I, along with Simon H, B and P were at the Trinity Bar in Surry Hills having a Sunday lunch that was meant to honour the closing of Chinese Whisper, but alas Chinese Whisper had already closed!
Sirdan is off to South Africa for a while mid-week.